GSS Country Snapshot
A brief overview of Harvard activities, safety & security, health, cultural, and outbound immigration considerations
Registered Trips in 2019
Mexico ranks in the top 25 registered locations for Harvard affiliates to study, research, intern, and travel. It’s also home to the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies’ (DRCLAS) office in Mexico City.
At Harvard and in Mexico, the DRCLAS Mexico Program deepens engagement with the region through an active program of events and activities, academic and internship opportunities for students, and support for faculty research.
The information below is intended as a high-level summary and is not all encompassing. Situations on the ground can change rapidly. We encourage you to review the additional resources and utilize your Harvard network to learn more. You can also schedule a consultation with us if you’d like to discuss the safety and security or operational matters unique to you and your travel or project. We’ll work with you to minimize risks and help you make informed decisions about your travel and activities.
“GSS has been extraordinarily helpful to us in resolving complex issues… at our excavation sites in both Mexico and Honduras, navigating us through protocols and regulations in the host countries to ensure continuing productive work...” – William Fash, Bowditch Professor of Central American and Mexican Archaeology and Ethnology
Safety & Security
The Harvard GSS risk rating for Mexico is watch list. Some of the factors that influence this rating for Harvard affiliates include crime, natural disasters, and protest activity. For example, opportunistic crime is a risk for non-locals, especially in urban areas. There are also reports of street harassment and sexual assault. Violent crime and corruption have been reported throughout regions with high drug cartel operations. Protests and demonstrations occur frequently, and the Mexican Constitution prohibits foreigners from partaking in political activities. As with any country, you need to research and consider all factors in the context of your identity, your activities in country, and your familiarity with the country and its culture. If a security incident occurs, contact International SOS through the Assistance App or by dialing +1-617-998-0000.
Weather and environmental incidents can create safety risks in Mexico, disrupting travel and essential services. Hurricanes, flash floods, and mudslides are common seasonally. The country has several active volcanoes, and earthquakes and tremors also pose a risk. Make sure you’re informed, prepared, and have a plan in case a natural disaster occurs. Download the International SOS app to receive push alerts about incidents in your area.
“Make sure you register your trip information. I was in Mexico during the 2017 earthquake and having entered my information helped Harvard reach out to me.” – Graduate student, winter 2018
Mexico has more than 20 international airports throughout the country and numerous domestic airports. There’s an extensive road network covering all areas of the country, but road conditions and adherence to rules of the road vary. Travelers are advised not to drive because conditions may vary from what you’re used to. Official taxis can be obtained from hotels or at the recommendation of trusted locals. Public transit includes an extensive bus network and metro and light rail systems within select cities. Review the road safety report for Mexico (access code: Harvard1636) for more information on public transit, walking, biking, and driving.
The phone network in Mexico is adequate, but international calling is expensive. Internet cafes are common in urban areas and provide fast connections. Be mindful that cyber fraud is increasing in Mexico; although travelers are most susceptible to card-skimming at point-of-sale transactions or ATMs, it’s also possible for banks, financial institutions, and organizations working with the government to be targeted in cyberattacks. Know how to keep your data safe abroad.
Make sure you’re up-to-date on any required and recommended vaccines for Mexico. Health risks such as chikungunya, Covid-19, dengue fever, malaria, rabies, West Nile virus, and Zika may be present. If you're traveling with medication, check Mexico’s Federal Commission for the Protection against Sanitary Risk list to see if your medications are legal and available in country. Many common U.S. medications and supplements are illegal abroad or require special authorization; for example, certain allergy and sinus medications are illegal in Mexico. Visit your doctor or a travel clinic (such as Harvard University Health Services) at least a month before your departure to discuss all health risks and your individual health with a professional, to receive any vaccines or medications you’ll need, and to learn how to reduce your risk of infection or transmission.
All travelers have a small risk of developing traveler’s diarrhea in any country, and it’s common in Mexico. You’re advised to drink only bottled or boiled water, to avoid ice, and to eat only properly prepared food. Learn how to make safe food and drink choices.
If you need any medical or mental health assistance while on a Harvard-related trip in Mexico, contact International SOS through the Assistance App or by dialing +1-617-998-0000. International SOS can direct you to appropriate inpatient or outpatient care and provide translation assistance. Major cities in Mexico have emergency and trauma capabilities, and evacuations to centers of medical excellence are possible throughout the country.
Mexico is a federal republic comprised of 31 states and the Federal District. Approximately 80% of the country identifies as Catholic.
Spanish is the national language, but English is widely spoken throughout the country, and indigenous languages are also used. It’s normal for conversations to take place at a much closer physical proximity than some travelers may be accustomed to, and it’s customary to address people by their title until they initiate a switch to first names.
Cash is still the preferred payment method for many, although credit and debit card acceptance and usage is growing.
When booking travel or scheduling meetings, be mindful of Mexico’s holidays and observances since businesses may be closed or have reduced hours. Celebratory gunfire is common on major holidays.
Visas & Travel Documents
Before traveling to Mexico, make sure your passport is valid for at least six months from your date of entry and that you have at least one blank page. Depending on your citizenship, reason for travel, and length of stay, you may need a visa and an onward/return ticket to enter.
All visitors for more than 72 hours need a free tourist card (available on direct flights or at port of entry). If traveling with a laptop, declare it as an “instrumento de trabajo” (equipment for work purposes).
Requirements are subject to change, so always check your visa and travel document requirements well in advance.